'Please Miss, I did that before in nursery!', achieving curriculum continuity and progrerssion in children's learning across the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence - Early Level from nursery settings to Primary 1

  • Marion Alexander Burns

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


In Scotland, the Curriculum for Excellence-Early Level proposes to provide continuity of curriculum experience for children transitioning from nursery to primary school. Over the last three decades, national and international studies have identified the key factors, which contribute to an effective transition. These studies also highlight some of the emotional, social, and cognitive implications for children starting school.This study aimed, through case study methods, to explore whether there are barriers and challenges facing practitioners and teachers in achieving curriculum continuity and progression in children's learning across the 'early level'. The study, informed by a bioecological and sociocultural framework, involved thirteen children, their parents and the staff who worked with them in two nursery settings and three primary schools. Findings demonstrate the importance of the environment, proximal processes and reciprocal relationships between people and contexts over time in achieving curriculum continuity across the 'early level'. Furthermore, the study identified the need for collaborative 'early level' curriculum planning systems and playful pedagogies which empower children to exercise agency, and which recognise and build on children's funds of knowledge. Qualitative data was gathered through participant observations and interviews with adults. Data, analysed using a thematic analysis framework, show that children experienced two 'early level traditions'. Firstly, they experienced the 'nursery' early level tradition and secondly, on moving to school, they experienced the 'Primary 1' early level tradition. Conceptually, as children left the nursery tradition behind and entered the Primary 1 tradition, they stepped into and out of 'contested' and 'unified' spaces, which are proposed to exist in the mesosystem between the two early level traditions. Consistent with a bioecological and sociocultural frame, children's agency and social capital determine the impact of the contested and unified spaces on their adjustment to being learners in the Primary 1 tradition.This study argues that, as a result of variations in pedagogical practices in each tradition, there are possibilities for greater collaboration between practitioners and teachers. Further, the importance of building a play-based, child-initiated pedagogy is foregrounded, if children starting school in Scotland, are to benefit from a flexible, socially constructed, continuous 'early level' curriculum experience.
Date of Award10 Apr 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SupervisorLorna Arnott (Supervisor) & Daniela Sime (Supervisor)

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